Places We Protect

Scott and Norma Matheson Wetlands Preserve


Aerial view of wetlands with red rock plateaus in the distance.
Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve Aerial view of the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve © Linda Whitham

More than 200 species of birds, amphibians, and mammals can be found at the Matheson Wetlands Preserve.



(April 8, 2021) The Scott and Norma Matheson Wetlands Preserve is temporarily closed.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working with the Moab Fire Departments following a fire at the Scott and Norma Matheson Wetlands Preserve on April 7th. Flames burned a structure and caused serious damage to the preserve. The Moab Fire Department – in conjunction with the Moab Police Department and County Sheriff Department – is conducting an investigation into the cause. 

Public safety is always our first concern.

We ask nature supporters to be patient with us until the investigation is completed. We will notify the public when plans are made to re-open.

We hope to re-open soon and will make an announcement here when we do. In the meantime, you can visit the preserve from the comfort of your couch by downloading our audio tour, available through the TravelStorys app. Questions or comments can be directed to us at

Why You Should Visit

The Scott and Norma Matheson Wetlands Preserve in Moab, Utah is an oasis in the desert - a stark contrast to the surrounding redrock cliffs and arid desert. To this lush oasis flock over 200 species of birds, amphibians, including the northern leopard frog, and aquatic mammals such as the beaver, muskrat and elusive river otter.

Download the audio tour before you visit, and make your phone your personal tour guide. You can also take this tour reomotely! 


This wetlands preserve is located in Moab, Utah along the banks of the Colorado River. Historically the area was, and still often is, referred to as the Moab Sloughs.

Why TNC Selected This Site  

The rarity of the wetland ecosystem in an arid environment, the area’s diversity that attracts a wide variety of wildlife species and the utilization of the wetlands by migratory birds, were the main reasons The Nature Conservancy became involved with the Moab Sloughs.

In 2019 TNC officially renamed this preserve as the Scott and Norma Matheson Wetlands Preserve. At its original dedication in 1991, the preserve was named in memory of Former Utah Governor Scott Matheson, an esteemed public servant who was a special friend to TNC and a champion for conservation in the West. His wife, Norma, attended the preserve’s dedication, and through the years, she built on Scott’s legacy, becoming a powerful leader in protecting Utah’s lands and waters and improving its communities. In July 2019, Norma Matheson passed away. By renaming this special preserve, TNC pays tribute to the lasting impact of both Scott and Norma Matheson—two extraordinary Utahns who dedicated their lives to public service and to the protection of our natural world.

What TNC Is Doing

The Nature Conservancy and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources purchased the wetlands starting in 1990, with the agreement that The Nature Conservancy would manage the preserve. Though many people visit the preserve to bird watch, others come to enjoy the sounds and sights of nature. School groups also visit the preserve to study wetlands and the creatures that inhabit these wetlands. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has conducted a mist-netting program to analyze bird usage in the preserve. Other studies have looked at population trends of northern leopard frogs, waterfowl and breeding birds.

TNC is also battling the invasive species, tamarisk, at Matheson Wetlands Preserve. 




Open year-round, dawn to dusk.


894 acres

Explore our work in Utah


There are large expanses of bulrush and cattail, black willow and Fremont’s cottonwood.


There are more than 200 species of birds occur in the preserve, including spring migrants: songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, summer nesters: yellow warblers, common yellowthroat, black-headed grosbeaks, lazuli buntings, song sparrows, great blue herons, fall migrants and winter waterfowl. You can also see beavers, muskrat, mule deer, northern leopard frog and raccoon.


A well-defined, handicapped-accessible, mile-long loop trail exists in the southern portion of the preserve. A boardwalk, made from recycled train trestles, spans the trail’s wet areas and leads to a wildlife viewing blind. Additionally, there is a wetlands teaching circle and map station where several brochures are available including bird and wildlife lists.

What to Bring

Bring water, your binoculars and bird guides to identify a wide variety of birds - especially during spring and fall!  Pick up a brochure and follow the marked trails on a self-guided tour and call the Moab Project Office at (435) 259-4629 with any questions.  Mosquito repellent is advised in the late spring and summer.

Support Our Work at the Wetlands

When you donate today, you will help protect this oasis in the desert for birds, wildlife and future generations.